Nothing like a five-year old manuscript

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I am working on this “draft” (of drafts) again. It says I last worked on it in 2016, the first words go back to 2011, which I find both curious, and almost desperate. The plot is vague, the characters unbelievable, well, not so deep anyway. Yet I find this important, even vital: retracing these steps, pausing on the good bits, not yet editing but planning to.

This project was, at the time, very time consuming. I looked for every opportunity to work on it, despite… a rather busy life. And, now, I really want to turn it into something worth reading, not just by me, but even by others too. There is something in the story I find, again, puzzling. I think it is the geography of the thing, its way to send the characters… maybe where they want to go. Not so random.

Shitty first drafts

“Very few writers really know what they are doing until they’ve done it.”

Peedeel's Blog

Shitty first drafts. All good writers write them. This is how they end up with good second drafts and terrific third drafts. People tend to look at successful writers who are getting their books published and maybe even doing well financially and think that they sit down at their desks every morning feeling like a million dollars, feeling great about who they are and how much talent they have and what a great story they have to tell; that they take in a few deep breaths, push back their sleeves, roll their necks a few times to get all the cricks out, and dive in, typing fully formed passages as fast as a court reporter. But this is just the fantasy of the uninitiated. I know some very great writers, writers you love who write beautifully and have made a great deal of money, and not one of them sits…

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Of a broken box and a small town

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In the past two weeks my writing output (I did not want to say “literary”) was badly affected by the collapse of my old Mac, bought in 2009. This was the tool for my writing before and after a first (disk) failure, back in 2018. I was then lucky enough to find a local expert (in Gesundbrunnen) to fix it, without loss of anything. So its life was extended by about a year. Ha! the anxiety, those precious manuscripts! I have now bitten the bullet, and got a so-called refurbished recent version of the same, so that I can now, for a while, avoid the usual trap of “too old to be updated etc.” Hence new MacOs and new virus protection. Even an updated version of Scrivener. Sigh… The “migration”, although assisted courtesy Apple™, was an experience… It’s all there as far as I have been able to ascertain, so far. I am now full of enthusiasm, and I am even considering a major reconstruction of my first novel, still languishing on the Cloud (more about this for another post).

In the meantime, on a beautiful and cool Sonntag we have discovered another treasure of Brandenburg, the town of Eberswalde. Treasure because of the location (slightly north-east of the city of Bernau by Berlin, and easily accessible with the regional train, well designed for carrying lots of bicycles), along two beautiful canals, the Finowkanal and the main Oder to Havel canal. Superb riding country, much loved by cycling enthusiasts all year round. The Finowkanal is on its length the site of magnificent industrial buildings in ruins, notably a paper mill dating back to the XVIIth century (and still working in 1991 when the vultures came in), and an electricity generation plant. This inspired me to write about it, and seek its history.

Now let’s go back to work!

Image: old paper mill in Eberswalde, source: Technikdenkmal in Eberswalde

Eberswalde bei Wikipedia.de

Turning the page… #amwriting

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It has not been a productive year for writing, so far. In the depth of last winter there were good intentions, even some actual work (!) then it all melted away, washed out by the rain. A few sunny days were not enough to rekindle the fire, there was too much distraction.

In part, the problem is with location: too many ideas got swallowed up, shredded, transformed by the magic of a city, a provinz, steeped in history. A few steps from the touristic centre, and there it is: an uninterrupted lineage, from Friedrich der Große, the napoleonic wars, the liberation, the revolution, 1871, straight down to the Sleepwalkers, two world wars, the occupation, and then now… As we ride around the Döberitzer Heide, we look at the vastness where der Alte Fritz had his army drilled before the Seven Years war (1753), where the imperial armies trained for the Kaiser’s African dreams, where the Red Army camped and vandalised the obelisk that commemorated the event, taking the metal with them (1992)…

So, it’s back to the beginnings, for writing about an uncertain future we must above all emphasise with the past, we must patiently listen to the ghosts.

Photography: a young European bison bull in the midst of the NSG Döberitzer Heide (Dallgow-Döberitz, Brandenburg) ©2017 Honoré Dupuis

Is it Autumn?

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The enemy breached the walls: in a few hours the virus spread, and a deep change set in. I can’t breath, nor think clearly. I know today is first day of Autumn, the trees colours have been changing for a while. Have we had a real summer? This is the time to go back to serious writing, but it will have to wait: reconquest. It will take time.

Already we have to plan the next trip, this time by road. Is it wise? Feeling drained, only sleep seems to help…

So much to do…

Picture: Gustav Klimt, Beech Grove, 1902
Galerie Neue Meister, Dresden, via sulphuriclike

Roots #TheDailyPost #WritersWednesday

The prompt, Wednesday April 26

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She belongs to this city, even if she would deny it. Her accent, I know, is – ever so lightly – from somewhere else, further East, for such is History. Once upon a time, those lands belonged here. Her roots are here.

And I, wandering those streets, drinking quietly on the benches of the parks, try to guess where she is, now, that war again sounds on the horizon. She haunts my dreams, her steps always fading, beyond some wall, or perhaps, behind a cloud.

The ruins have gone – so many women cleared the streets, as the soldiers jeered. At night I roam the squares, near the churches…

She’s nowhere to be found…

Photo: berlin 2017 © martin u waltz. streetberlin.net

Original tales

“If such things creep quietly and unnoticed into our work, then perhaps that is not plagiarism but homage.”

Sue Vincent's Daily Echo

A picture is worth a thousand words by HikingArtist

I was writing late last night and, on re-reading what I had written became aware of an odd juxtaposition of certain words. They took me straight back to a book where a particular passage had left its mark. There was no thought of copying; no intent to re-use or appropriate the work of another writer, and what I had noticed was no more than three words long. Perhaps it was the context rather than the phrase that had been the reminder. Even so, it got me thinking.

With all the words that have been written by the human hand over the millennia, are there any that have been left unsaid? Can we ever write without plagiarising, consciously or unconsciously the work of another who has gone before? I remember reading once that Shakespeare had summarised every human emotion in his work. That is open to debate, of course, and the…

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You #IWD2017

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You haunt my dreams, you haunt these pages, and the places where I once was, and the ones I haven’t seen yet, indispensable, sometime smiling, sometime not, as if you wanted me to know when I keep to the path of truthfulness, and when I don’t.

In a crowd you always find me, and, in my worst nightmares, I no longer see you…

Without you I wouldn’t be here, just a few mineral atoms lost in vacuum. I would not write, what is a writer without muse? How would I even know that this world existed?

Yet, without me, you would be around for sure, but someone else entirely: her reflection in your eyes would belong to another being, maybe even the opposite of me? Can I imagine that strange being, in a world I know nothing about?

No, you are saying, this couldn’t be, for you have made me, and in many ways, I have made you.

Picture: The river, by Chris De Becker

Clean #amwriting

The Prompt

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Each day some words appear on the page, tentative, surrounded in mist,  as if those words emerged from a cloudy landscape, as yet unformed. Summoning a clean page let the characters know: they are not alone, more life is being breathed into their world, a genesis.

Their impatience is a testimony to their precarious existence: until the work is complete, they don’t know for sure that they will survive the latest twist, those nightly revisions, the dreaded editing. For words may disappear, and with them, the reasons for those fragile beings to be born.

Each day, for us too, is a clean page, to be written with care, and attention to detail: for the number of pages is finite, and the Book has many characters.

Resist #WritersWednesday

The Prompt

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The story is there, the characters laid out, not yet fully alive, but stirring. The daily bombardment of falsehoods, the unstoppable flow of hate and lies are the sad background: is it not the writer’s duty to see through, to unravel, to show the lessons that could have been learnt? But who is she to claim to know? Who is he to claim some knowledge, somehow privileged to the “happy few”, as Stendhal once wrote?

Only the story should tell, only the characters should speak. Not by blaming the past – which is our present – but only by imagining what could be, do we have a chance to change the future…

Image: Statue of Liberty, courtesy http://travelhdwallpapers.com/statue-of-liberty-sunset/